Meditations in Exodus: 34. Seventh Plague – Hail
Ex 9:18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.
Let’s update our table:
|a) Prefixed by call to let people go||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes v.13|
|b) Specific warning of nature of plague||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes v.18|
|c) Magicians copy||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No!||No|
|d) Pharaoh appears to relent||No||Yes||No||Yes||No||No||Yes v.27|
|e) Affects Israel||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||?No||No v.26|
There are a number of similarities but also some major differences in the coming of this particular plague. First there IS a call to let Israel go (v.14) and there IS a warning of what will happen (v.18,19). But then note the differences.
First there is a major emphasis after the call to let Israel go, that puts everything in perspective: “or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth.” (v.14) This plague is going to be utterly devastating. But then the Lord makes it even more obvious what is going on: “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.” (v.15) Pharaoh, don’t you realise you silly little man that God could have just swatted you away as you might swat a fly. The Lord could have sent a plague that would wipe out every man, woman and child in Egypt, and it is only His mercy and grace that has prevented that happening. But there is more to it than that: “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” (v.16) You think you are all powerful but actually the truth is that I am using you to display to the rest of my world my power, as well as the folly of the sin of pride.
Now look at the extent of what is coming: “You still set yourself against my people and will not let them go. Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.” (v.17,18) But then comes a word of wisdom that is meant to help Egypt come to its senses: “Give an order now to bring your livestock and everything you have in the field to a place of shelter, because the hail will fall on every man and animal that has not been brought in and is still out in the field, and they will die.’ ” (v.19) What is amazing about this is that the Lord could have sent this hail without any warning and so every living creature not under cover would have died, but He gives them a chance to avoid that.
This adds support to the idea that there was a reasonable period between plagues because the Lord talks about livestock here but their livestock had completely perished two plagues back! One must assume that they had bought fresh animals from neighbouring countries. What then follows shows that some people at least were starting to take notice of the Lord: “Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the LORD hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside. But those who ignored the word of the LORD left their slaves and livestock in the field.” (v.20,21)
And then the plague comes. The Lord tells Moses to stretch out his staff (v.22) and the hail fell, and a full blown storm ensues: “When Moses stretched out his staff toward the sky, the LORD sent thunder and hail, and lightning flashed down to the ground. So the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt; hail fell and lightning flashed back and forth. It was the worst storm in all the land of Egypt since it had become a nation.” (v.23,24) It was utterly devastating: “Throughout Egypt hail struck everything in the fields–both men and animals; it beat down everything growing in the fields and stripped every tree,” (v.25) except, “The only place it did not hail was the land of Goshen, where the Israelites were.” (v.26)
Then we go through the same old ritual: Pharaoh relents (v.27,28), Moses prays (v.33) but not before challenging Pharaoh that he knows he will back track (v.29,30), and then Pharaoh changed his mind (v.34,35). At this point Pharaoh’ pride is the equivalent of lunacy. After all these plagues, after the loss of livestock from plague and now by hail, the accuracy of description, prayer and plague, and the fact that the plagues now miss Goshen, the only person who cannot see the truth has to be mad! However we have spoken of spiritual blindness before and the truth is that wherever there is heavy occult involvement, there is major spiritual blindness. Perhaps this is part of the problem in the occult-heavy, overly superstitious and deceived land.
The battle that is going on is one of discipline which is all about seeking to bring about change of behaviour. We have seen again and again how these plagues undermine the very superstitious beliefs in their gods by these Egyptians and what is so incredible is the grace of God that holds back again and again, giving full warning of the consequences of not heeding His call to let His people go. Even more in this last plague, He says what He will do but gives the people opportunity to get all their livestock under cover. Never ever say that God was harsh in bringing these plagues. Everything about the way they came denies that!
Perhaps one of the dangers in the Lord’s discipline, if we put it like that, is His mercy and grace that gives second chances. In so doing the foolish might think the discipline is easy off and therefore they may think they can hold out that bit longer and can actually resist the Lord. Merely because we cannot see Him, pride thinks we can resist Him. That is folly and is wrong. The Lord IS blessing us on one hand while seeking to correct us on the other hand. Don’t just focus on His blessings, but see the bigger picture and realise there are things He wants to change in His modern church, and if we fail to heed these things, be prepared to see men and ministries fall.